“Let’s not make a federal case out of this.” Nearly all of us have heard someone say something like this at one time or another. And it used to mean something. Not anymore.
This bit of sarcasm, after all, is meant to imply that the person you’re talking to is taking some relatively small matter and making too big a deal out of it. Only the most serious crimes rise to the level of federal law, right?
Welcome to the 21st century. Today more than 300,000 federal criminal laws are on the books. There are so many, in fact, that stating the exact number is impossible. No one knows for sure how many there are.
“They are published in the bowels of the federal register — the place where few people outside of law firms and major corporations look to find laws — and are often drafted in ambiguous and often hypertechnical language that can’t be understood,” writes John-Michael Seibler, a legal fellow in the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.